Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Last Blooms of Autumn

I snapped this photo on Wednesday, documenting this hardy little geranium splashing its brave color in defiance of the shortening days and deepening cold. All good things, etc: the frost came last night, and the blooms have withered.

Nevertheless! Geraniums are actually perennials, and I am thinking if I bring this one inside, perhaps in my cellar where it can go dormant, perhaps it will bloom again in the spring.

That's the great thing about spring; it always comes around again.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Born on the Kennebec

Exciting happenings in downtown Augusta: this week saw the opening of our first brew pub, Cushnoc Brewing

I'd love to tell you that we checked it out, and the beers on offer were amazing, as was the wood-fired pizza; and maybe they are! But I wouldn't know because though we tried to check it out - the beer anyway - last night, we were unable to find a seat. Or rather, we were unable to find an appropriate seat: if you were there for beer, you could sit here but not there, or you could stand, unless of course you were also getting pizza, in which case you could sit there or there. It seemed complicated.  I was hoping for more of a Three Dollar Dewey's experience: sit where you want, order what you want, food or drink. Cushnoc shares with Dewey's the long communal tables that patrons share with strangers as well as their party so I imagined a similar casualness.

No matter! I was glad to see they got a rousing turnout for their fist Saturday night. The pizza smelled amazing, and though I don't often have money to go out to eat, I can sometimes scratch up enough for a couple of beers. Looking forward to visiting on a less crowded evening. Here are some photos I grabbed from their Facebook page:

BTW, we ended up at the Black & Tan instead last night, a smaller pub with an Irish bent. As they do most weekends, they had live music last night. The bartender was wearing a kilt! Possibly for some seasonal reason - it was the Halloween pub crawl last night - but since I cherish in my heart a hope that kilts will one day again come into fashion for men, I chose to believe otherwise. The B &T is another relatively new addition to the previously-almost-non-existent Augusta nightlife, which now includes not just the aforementioned eateries (drinkeries? Is that a word?) but also Circa 1885, a wine bar (most unfashionably, I hate wine, but still), and Otto's on the River, a high end restaurant. The Riverfront Barbeque and Grill is still on Water Street, as well.

I'm excited to see all these new establishments downtown. I feel like downtown Augusta is on the cusp of becoming what I always thought it could: it has the architecture, it has the river, it has a potential client with decent jobs nearby. It just needed a critical mass of happenings to draw people in.

Anyway! Welcome to Augusta, Cushnoc Brewing! Now we need some good shopping. Like, City Drawers? Or something akin to the old Kennebec River Artisans? Maybe Kennebec Chocolates could be persuaded to move a half mile for better walk in traffic.

While I am waiting for all that to happen, I am delighted to have more places to drink good beer. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Monarch in Maine

Female Monarch Butterfly

I saw this little lady (yes, a lady for sure!) on Macworth Island about a week ago. Because I am blessed with the kind of friends who not just notice things like butterflies, but stop and photograph them, I am starting to wonder if monarchs are making a comeback? I have seen a few more this year than last IRL, but I have seen many more on social media. In addition, my brother, who lives near a wooded area and has a large patch of milkweed on his property, says he and his wife & their little sons have seen chrysalises everywhere.

We so rarely get anything like good environmental news. The globe continues to warm, idiots continue to pretend it isn't, pesticides and habitat loss and even devices like hydro dams, which are meant to do less harm by replacing coal burning electrical generation, all contribute to species loss. Maybe, just maybe we are not going to lose this beloved beauty.

Male Monarch butterfly
I know this butterfly is a female, because the males have oval shaped black dot on their inner wings. Here's one a friend posted:

Yes, that's a marijuana plant it has landed on. Legal in Maine!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Moxie Falls, Moxie Gore Township

The trouble with photographing waterfalls is that you can't really get a sense of the scale of the thing. Rocks can be any size. Trees and branches have a pretty broad range, too. In this photo, the tiny little people to the top right of the falls are key to get an idea of the immensity of the drop.
Moxie Falls, in the township of Moxie Gore, plummets an incredible 90+ feet. That's three times the height of my house. The pool at the bottom of the falls is nearly 17 feet deep but I wouldn't recommend a dive.

If you aren't from Maine, you probably think of the word moxie as a anachronistic synonym for spunk or courage. This comes from the soft drink made in Maine, which in turn took its name from a patent medicine which claimed to build up one's nerve. This was before the FDA was created, when companies could make all the unfounded medical claims they wanted! But hey, how about that Big Government tyranny, amirite?

But I digress.

In Maine, the name Moxie is associated with a stretch of water feeding into the Kennebec River - Moxie Pond, Moxie Stream, Moxie Falls. It seems to derive from an Abenaki word meaning "dark water." The soft drink takes its name from the region, and adjective comes from the soft drink.

The trail leading into the falls is a relatively easy hike. It's wide and flat most of the way, but does include some steep staircases as you approach the falls. There are wooden viewing decks from which the view is maintained by Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands - they trim back branches and brush to keep it clear. By which I mean, don't crawl out on the ledge trying to get a better view!

A Maine man, Garth Coon, was killed 2005 when his companion, who had been swimming in a pool
near the top of the falls got swept away by the current. He tried to save her, but they were both pulled over. Though badly injured, she lived; sadly, he did not. 

There is a much, much safer swimming hole upstream, within the series of small drops known as Junior Falls. The day we were there a youth group was enjoying it, splashing around, sitting on the natural bench the ledge makes just under the falls. 

This pool is also pretty deep - people were doing cannonballs from a low ledge on the far side. It's a fast-running stream pretty deep in the woods - the water is clean and clear. The hike, while not arduous, is sort of a self-selecting mechanism; most people who are willing to walk that far into the woods to take a swim are also the sort who wouldn't leave beer cans and other trash around. 

It's a pretty drive to Moxie Gore, and the area gets a goodly lot of visitors to hunt, fish, canoe, and tube. (Bullfrog Adventures will take you on a gorgeous, safe, and surprisingly cheap tubing trip.) As a result there are several little restaurants and brew pubs on 201 for you to grab a bite & a pint on the way home. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Batty McFly

For the third time this month we've entertained a bat visitor, in our living space. We're not sure how they are getting in, but it's an old house and most likely they are living in the attic and squeezing through some tiny hole into the living room. I like bats. I think they are cute - look at Batty McFly's hilariously fierce little face! In actuality he is not trying to intimidate, he was making those echolocation squeaks that bats use to get around.

I did a little reading and discovered that McFly is probably a Big Brown Bat, as opposed to a Little Brown Bat. "Big" is a relative term, and he (she?) was not at all a large animal. Both kinds are found in Maine. Big Brown Bats have longer fur and are more likely to be living in barns and attics.
Big Brown Bats are born in June, and the ones we are finding may well be the young of year, attempting to venture outside for the first time. Bad luck for them that they find themselves in the House of Many Cats, although none has been killed yet.
I captured McFly (and our earlier visitors) by putting on my work gloves ( I doubt they would bite but why take the chance?) and placing a wastepaper basket over them, then closing up the end with a bit of cardboard, and bring the lot outside. McFly seems tuckered out, because he didn't fly away right off the...bat, but hung out πŸ˜„for a while - long enough for me to snap this photo.

Like Little Brown Bats, Big Brown Bats can be infected with White Nose Syndrome, although their populations are not crashing like their smaller cousins.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Loon Chicks, Toddy Pond

Totes adorable, right? I snagged the photos from Avian Haven's Facebook page.
Avian Haven is a bird rescue and rehabilitation organization in Freedom, Maine. They have extensive facilities, including compounds for owls, other raptors, and aquatic birds, including a dedicated indoor pool for loon rehabilitation.

Though these guys were born on Toddy Pond, their next stop is the ocean, as loons typically spend their first two years as marine birds, before returning to their fresh water origin point to nest and raise chicks of their own.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Upta Camp: Welcome to the Wigwams

Nothing is more relaxing than a weekend upta camp. We've just come back from The Wigwams, a camp belonging to the Downeast Salmon Federation.

Located on Lower Wigwam Falls (hence the name) on the Machias River, the Wigwams is as close as you'll get to glamping anywhere Downeast. It boasts a gas stove & lights, and a screened porch where you can sit in comfort and watch the river go by.

Though quite out of the way - one drives through miles of blueberry barrens to reach it - the Wigwams is accessible by truck. (I wouldn't try that road in any vehicle without a pretty high undercarriage.) Just below the falls is flat water - you can put in a canoe & paddle downriver and then easily back upriver.

It's a 3-season camp, as it has a wood furnace for comfy nights even in cool weather.

Though the Wigwams was originally a salmon camp, located where the Passamaquoddy had historically placed a dwelling to take advantage of the fine salmon fishing, there are, sadly, very few salmon in the Machias River these days. The Downeast Salmon Federation is working on that!

If you'd like to stay in the Wigwams, you can do so for a small donation to DSF, who also owns two other cabins in the region. Those are more rustic, and I haven't been there yet. Wigwams, though? Fantastic. Rustic, peaceful, but easy and clean and convenient. Camping for people who aren't into camping. πŸ™‚

Monday, July 31, 2017

Pickers Cabins, Columbia Falls, Maine

It's nearly picking season in Downeast Maine. The pickers will come and live at the barrens in rustic little camps until the work is done.

 The barrens are a spare but beautiful landscape, upon which little will grow except blueberries, because below a very thin scrim of soil lies solid bedrock, scraped clean by glaciers. The blueberry foliage turns deep red in early August, and stays brilliant until the snow covers it. The town of Cherryfield - right next to Columbia Falls - got its name, oddly enough, from the red foliage of its blueberry barrens. My mother is from Cherryfield, and she worked in Wyman's food processing plant as a teenager, plucking sticks and rocks from a conveyor belt of blueberries. She hates when I tell people this, but she was crowned Maine Blueberry Queen of 1950! 
You probably love wild Maine blueberries - everybody does. They are a superfood, you know! These barrens are, in fact, wild; the blueberries were here before there were companies to cultivate them. They may have been here before there were any people to enjoy them! The pickers cabins in the photo above are the accommodations provided by the Passamaquoddy Wild Blue Berry Company. 

Ready for picking! July 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017


In the spring I drilled holes in some wood blocks, hoping to attract Mason Bees - native pollinators far more effective than honey bees. I wasn't sure we'd be able to house masons, at least not this year, because I had read they nest early - when the trees bloom.

Turns out there are several kinds of mason bees, and one of them has found our bee condo! She carefully visited several of the holes before settling on this one, and is now in the process of removing the splinters and bits of wood inside the hole, in preparation for her eggs.

I'm excited all out of proportion about this.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Berry Season: Homegrown is Alright with Me

A land baron I am not (or baroness, I guess.) I live on a double city lot. Nevertheless, my husband and I manage to grow quite a lot of food on our small parcel. This busy lady favors easy things to grow - tomatoes, hot peppers, pole beans - but by far the easiest, and my favorite, are raspberries.

They grow like the proverbial weeds - and sometimes they are the quite-literal weeds, as it's easier to grow them than it is to root them out where you don't want them. The don't even need to be weeded or watered. You just need a sunny-ish patch (I put mine on a difficult-to-mow western slope.) and to wait a year after they are planted, for the canes don't produce fruit their first year. I chose a variety that does all its fruiting early in the season, because once the tomatoes & beans start coming I can barely keep up with processing them, so I feared all-season raspberries would be wasted.

The fruit, of course, is amazing, but the leaves also make a nice tea, which is a gentle treatment for menstrual cramps or diarrhea. Less reliably, raspberry is said in lore to strengthen the bonds of marriage and ensure fidelity, and the bushes to protect a homestead against lost spirits. I can attest to this latter property - I have yet to see a ghost here!

Raspberries are delicious all by themselves. They are also yummy additions to cereal or salad; or here is a simple dessert preparation:

2 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream

In a mixing bowl, bruise the fruit lightly with a potato masher. Sprinkle the sugar on top, mix briefly then let sit for an hour. Add the sour cream, stir thoroughly, and spoon into bowls.  A summer dessert soup!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What's New Downtown?

This morning I had occasion to walk downtown. One of my favorite things about my city is that I can and do walk to just about everything I need to do here: to the post office, the library, the bank (not to mention the pub.)
Today I was going to ship a package & buy stamps. On the way back, I walked beside the river, in hopes of seeing a sturgeon jump. I did see a few, but nothing like yesterday, when they were popping up like fireworks on Independence Day.) My route took me beside this concrete retaining wall below downtown, and lo! A mural!
That wasn't there the last time I walked by here!

Less noticeable but also fun downtown are edible plantings! I see the city has placed tomato plants among the celosia.

Augusta gets better every day!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Kennebec Ant

Ohh, everything comes in its own special size
I guess it can be measured,
by where you put your eyes
It so big when you're close,
it looks smaller back a bit
That's about the size of it.
That's about the size;
where you put your eyes
That's about the size of it.
Oh the big becomes the little
when you see it back a bit.
The huge becomes the dinky
which is just the opposite
of the larger that gets smaller,
it never seems to quit -
That's about the size of it.
That's about the size;
where you put your eyes
That's about the size of it.
Let the Big become the Little,
that's the way it seems to go,
that they make up a larger thing
is something good to know.
It's nice to know that though it's small
there's always room to grow
and that's about the size of it.
That's about the size...
where you put your eyes.....
That's about the size of it.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tomato Pics - The Perfect Father's Day Tribute

It's sort of a running joke in my family - my Dad and his tomato plants. There are reels and reels of home movie footage of beautiful green growing fruit. He was so proud of his garden.

So, not for nothin', I grew up to be a gardener, and I sort of specialize in tomatoes. And this year I have blossoms already on some of my plants! In the middle of June.

Dad would be proud.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mama Moose & Babies

Taken near Moosehead Lake. Totally sweet, and also DRIVE CAREFULLY in the wooded parts of Maine.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dicker for Deals

I visited a Woolwich (pr. Wool-Itch) landmark yesterday: Ed's Stuff. If you spend much time in Maine - above Cumberland count, that is - and you're like me, you've probably driven by it a hundred times, each time thinking, One of these days I'm going to stop there.

Well, the day finally came! I was driving between two craft galleries - both, somewhat confusingly, called Stable (The Stable Gallery in Damariscotta, where you can find my work, and Stable on Front, where, sadly you no longer can. Both are cute little shops, though, and you should visit.)

Ed's Stuff bills itself as an antique shop, but that would be in the Sanford and Son mold: "We buy junk and sell antiques." But if you are willing to sift through the trash, there are surely some gems.
Lots of trunks, in varying conditions

A big stack of metal bedframes


If you want a buoy, Ed's is your place. Buoy oh buoy.
More buoys

Still more buoys
These were a few of the finer used toilets available. 

Ditto, toilets. Some in a functional state, other, not so much.

SOOO many windows. You could build
a boho greenhouse!

If ya want doorknobs, you've come to the right place!

And lastly, this invitation
It was a fun visit! I was looking for stools, though, to go under my kitchen island (the one I haven't finished yet - but I've made a lot of progress!) But I know where to go if I need a doorknob or a buoy.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Free Table Score!

Hey there, World's Cheapest Human here (btw, that puts me in the running for the galactic title. JUST SAYIN) You know what the World's Cheapest Human really loves? Free stuff!

This free thing was sitting on a concrete block next to the giant recycling bin where the City of Augusta asks us to drop our plastic and paper trash. Clearly someone was downsizing but didn't want to actually discard a perfectly good item. Thanks, someone!

We feed the birds. Mostly sunflowers - tons of birds love sunflower seed - but also thistle (finches!) and suet (woodpeckers.) I've had a hummingbird feeder before but no hummingbird has ever touched it with a ten foot pole, or a pole of any length. or touched it at all. We maxed out on hummingbirds with two, this one time, but we usually do get one, and she prefers monarda and trumpet flowers. (And also scarlet runner beans, but we don't have any of those this year.) Before this things bloom. Nada. No hummingbirds.

But that's all changing now. My old feeder was pink (and so ugly it hurt to look at it, I'd take a photo but it might be considered vandalizing the internet.) I'm told they really only like a red feeder. But no red dye in the food, please, it isn't good for them, I'm told.

I'm waiting for my sugar syrup to cool right now. Here's the mix:

4 parts water
1 part sugar

They like cane sugar better than beet sugar - if your bag of sugar doesn't specify, it's probably beet. I just used what I had in the house, if this doesn't bring 'em I'll try cane sugar next.

Friday, June 2, 2017

On This Day: Portland Rum Riot

On this day in 1855, the Portland Rum Riot occurred, ending with one man dead and Mayor Neal Dow;s political career in ruins.

In 1851, Maine passed a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol, except for medicinal purposes. This is hard to picture in the Maine I know, land of 10,000 bars and home of Fat Ass in a Glass, a mixture of Allen's coffee brandy and milk.
Even at the time, the law did not go over well among Portland's large Irish population, They viewed it as an attack; Dow, a Quaker, devoted teetotaler and Abolitionist, saw the law as a social good, as much of the rum sold in the US at the time fueled the slave trade.

 Dow was not just opposed to imported liquor, though: he conducted raids on groggeries and drinking establishments right in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood of Portland. When a rumor spread that the mayor was storing rum in vaults under City Hall, the Irish immigrant population were enraged by what they saw as his hypocrisy. (The Mayor had authorized the purchase for medicinal purposes, but had not appointed a committee to do the authorizing, so was technically in violation of the law.)

At that time a judge could grant a search warrant if any three citizens requested it. Such a request was made to search City Hall, and a judge granted it. With warrant in hand, the men were nevertheless denied entry.

An angry crowd formed as men got off of work. They threw bricks and rocks, and Dow called out the militia with orders to shoot. One man, John Robbins of Deer Isle, broke and unlocked the door to the store of liquor. He was immediately shot by the militia. The crowd dispersed but the militia continued to fire, and more people were injured.

Dow was later tried and acquitted on charges that he improperly obtained alcohol. He lost his re-election bid handily and never again held public office, though he ran for governor and then for president.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

To Bee or Not to Bee

Every year, long about in February, I start to think about keeping bees. I google a few kinds of hives: Kenyan top bar? Flow hive? Occasionally I even take a book out of the library before I remember: oh yeah. This is a shit ton of work. You have to clean the hive. You have to inoculate the bees. You have to treat for mites. You get propolis all over everything. And that's before you think about harvesting the honey. I'd probably have to take an extension course.

I'm not really up for a shit ton more work, or spending my little disposable income on a class. I like honey but not that much. I'm more interested in supporting pollinators.

In my annual internal soliloquy - to bee or not to bee? - this year I discovered the perfect compromise: mason bees! These are tiny native bees, about the size of houseflies, but they are power-pollinators: they 4 -5 times more efficiently than their non-native cousins the honeybees.

They are also a lot less work. Basically make a suitable home for them, and they take care of themselves. There are supplies you can buy - paper tubes to go in the holes, to make cleaning the nest out easier - but I went with basic this year. They want holes, preferably facing south or east, and tehy want a source of mud (I can do that - I'm a potter!!) They want some protection from rain and wind. The holes I drilled are a little shallow, probably only about 4 inches; apparently 5 or 6 is better, to protect against the predation of woodpeckers.

A 5-16th inch drill bit works best. Wood should be untreated.
I knew I was keeping those old license plates around for a reason. 
It turns out I may be a bit late for my little friends this season - everything I am reading is that they make their nests while the trees are blooming, which is late March & April here. But maybe we'll get a late bloomer or two! In any case, if they have need of a home it'll bee here. πŸ˜‰

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

Dad, looking so handsome in his uniform. 

I enjoy a long weekend as much as the next person - maybe more, if the next person is a curmudgeon! - but I do want to take a moment to recognize the people who risked all, and in some cases sacrificed all, to make the gardening and the barbecues possible. Thank you to our military service members, active and retired, past, present, and future. A special and heartfelt thanks sent to heaven for those who lost their lives defending our freedom.

My father was in the Air Force, before I was born. It was how he paid for college. He was stationed in Germany and though he came back well and whole and singing German songs, he enlisted during the Korean War. He didn't see combat, but he could have. He was willing to risk it, for his country.

My nephew is a soldier today. He is training right now for his specialty, and I fear in my heart he will be sent to Afghanistan, or some new war. He is a brave young man - they all are, to be soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in the first place - but I can't help but hope that his courage is not needed. I'm not much good at praying but I use whatever ability I have to ask that he be kept safe, that all our young men and women in the military be kept safe; that, if they should be forced to fight, let it be for a good cause and let justice prevail.

Enjoy the weekend, and thank those who made your enjoyment possible.

Be well.